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Good Governance, Only Tool To Mitigate Conflict

Conflict Resolution & Governance in Nepal

Editors: Ananda P. Shrestha and Hari Uprety
Published Date: August 2003
Published by: Nepal Foundation for Advanced Studies (NEFAS) in cooperation with Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), Nepal in August 2003

Price: Not mentioned, Pages: 244


To quote, Immanuel Wallerstein, the modern world system is in structural crisis and confronted by an ''age of transition'' sustained by anti-systemic movements.

In a post-modern world, the emergence of post-class society has generated a new social stratification and fault-lines grounded on the struggle for natural resources, personality structure, gender, race, region, religion, ethnicity, nation and exclusionary policies of the state.

Contradictions and conflicts are essential aspects ofsocial and political life, but protracted conflict has negative impacts on the political system because it destroys the web of human relationships rooted in the system of networks, writes Dev Raj Dahal, a political scientist and also a contributor of the book under review.

And now the Nepalese society has also been witnessing a protracted conflict between the establishment and the CPN-Maoist since the last eight years, posing a threat to the very integrity of the nation state as hinted by Dahal.

The new situation has prompted people to resort to soul-searching as to why the nation is being pushed into the spiral of violence. And this has propelled a section of people to engage in an intellectual debate to understand causes and nature of conflicts, thereby catapulting the ideas of the conflict management and resolution in the market. lt is true that the idea of conflict management alone does not help bring the warring parties to the road of peace and reconciliation. Nonetheless, understanding the problem accurately helps address and handle the matter in a rational, inclusive and democratic manner.

Against this backdrop, the NEFAS with the cooperation of Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) has brought out 'Conflict Resolution and Governance in Nepal' which is a collection of working papers presented in two separate seminars. The book has been divided into two parts - 'Conflict Resolution in Nepal' and 'Governance in Nepal'. In addition to providing a conceptual framework to the conflict resolution, the first section with four chapters, analyses the ongoing conflicts in Nepal from different perspectives as weIl as presents a number of suggestions to manage them. The second part that contains five chapters seeks good governance as the viable tool to end social, religious and economic disparity thereby not allowing the conflicts to manifest in the society.

In 'Conflict Resolution: A Note on Some Contending Approaches' noted political scientist Dev Raj Dahal attempts to describe the fundamental sources of conflict, major conflict types and various approaches to conflict management. The writer provides theoretical ground for understanding conflict and its implication in the society by quoting various sources.

"Conflicts, like all human interactions, can be perceived as a state of opposition and projection of contesting viewpoints between individual, groups and institutions," Dahal defines the term.

Classifying conflict into four categories - structural, perceptual, manifest and latent, Dahal says that conflict resolution techniques try to eliminate the causes of conflicts by satisfying the needs, concerns, interests of not only the conflicting parties but also those affected by it.

Economist Meena Acharya in "Towards Conflict Transformation in Nepal: Recent Trends in Government-Maoist Dialogue' sheds light on the current imbroglio. She has attributed ethnic diversity, caste discrimination, and the geographic and religious divides to the emergence of the current conflict.

"These structural discrimination have been aggravated in the last decade because of political corruption, rising expectation of the masses and social traditionalism among the politicians. Economic policies fostering dependency on foreign aid and foreign employment has led to emergence of new classes - 'fragmented personalities' and 'multiple states', she writes.

In his article, sociologist Krishna Bahadur Bhattachan has tried to employ sociological perspectives to describe the current government-Maoist hostility. Giving an air of a maverick thinker, Bhattachan says, "'The Bahunbadis must accept and recognise that there are serious ongoing, surface and latent conflicts based on class, caste, ethnicity, language, religion, gender and region."

He proposes referendum as the best way to settle the various contentious issues.

Lawyer Yub Raj Sangraula in "Dynamics of Continuing Conflict in Nepal: A Geopolitical Perspective" calls for the recognition of the political character of the problem, coexistence of diverse ideologies and prepositional representative system, among others for conflict resolution.

Articles of Hiramani Ghimire, Chakramehr Vajracharya, Biharikrishna Shrestha, Raghav D. Pant and Hari Uprety dwell on public policy, governance effectiveness, economic policy and peace talks. Shrestha points out fault-lines in social, economic structures and in policy implementation aspects.

Two unsung innovations - the community forestry programme and small farmer cooperative limited that sprouted during the multi-party system are the well illustrated cases of governance in Nepal. A system of good governance that really addresses that grievances of the people at the grassroot level can help avoid the conflicts.

In his "Politics of Hard Choices: In quest of Economic Policies and Programmes," noted economist Pant hints at the incompatibility between the ideology the political perties preach and the economic programmes, they follow. "Economic decision making is still confined to a few selected individuals with no institutional channels for other individuals to make their opinions felt in the domestic economy." In "Peace Dialogue in the Process of Conflict Resolution in Nepal," Hari Uprety says the lack of balance development and justice-oriented policies created a sort of " void" that was eventually filled with the conflicts. His write up also exposes the opportunistic posture of the political parties on the issue of the Maoist problem and mobilisation of army. "In the chaotic search for the market-oriented policies, the policymakers had forgotten that Nepal was a market hub ever since the country's inception and there was the need to look inwards to promote a context - specific market rather than look elsewhere for advice."

Despite being pedantic and academic in some cases, the book offers different perspectives to readers to understand the ongoing conflicts. Political leaders, the policy makers and the common readers can benefit from the thought-provoking write-ups to equip their minds and form opinion on the much-talked about issue.

Source: The Rising Nepal, Friday Supplement (24 October 2003)

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